Supplement Feature - April 2008
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Room to Live

Outfitting Your Parks to Provide Space for All

By Emily Tipping

Beat the Baddies

If vandalism and graffiti are a problem in your area, you need to develop a proactive prevention plan. Here are some steps to take to keep your park free from trouble:

GET THE COMMUNITY INVOLVED. A community that cares about its park will act as your eyes, preventing a great many problems before they occur, and promptly reporting them when they do happen.

DISCOURAGE GRAFFITI WITH THE RIGHT SURFACES. The Project for Public Spaces (PPS) states that blank, smooth surfaces are more attractive to graffitists. Lighter colors and highly visible surfaces are also at greater risk.

AND THE RIGHT MATERIALS. If you like the look of wood, but are afraid of damage, you can get lumber made from recycled plastic. Or, you can use protective coatings that make it easier to remove graffiti.

MAKE IT HARDER TO GET TO. Placing dense plantings near walls can make it harder to get to the surface.

LIGHT IT UP. Good lighting will discourage vandals, and also makes it easier for security personnel to keep an eye on things.

FAKE THEM OUT. The PPS also suggests placing dummy cameras and motion detectors in highly visible areas as a less expensive means of prevention.

BE THERE. Ask the police to make occasional sweeps, or maintain a presence with a uniformed security guard or park ranger.

BEAT THEM TO IT. In an area where you're pretty sure the graffitists are going to visit time and again, you can beat them to the punch by painting big surface areas with multicolored murals.

When your measures fail, and your site is the victim of graffiti or vandalism, a swift response is the best response. Graffiti that remains for more than 48 hours is a signal that no one cares, and eventually invites even more vandalism. Prompt attention and removal shows you care about the park, and graffitists' work will not be rewarded—or seen.